What is Inbound Marketing?

What is Inbound Marketing?

–Update to Post Mar 2014–

For many years us marketeers have focused on outbound marketing. A one-way message, attempting to buy people’s attention. Think Radio, Think Advertising, Think TV Adverts. With Inbound Marketing the focus switches to ‘earnt’ attention. By providing your prospects with something of value they give you permission to keep marketing to them. For example, giving away tips in a blog article/whitepaper, which your prospect finds via Google is a good form of Inbound Marketing. They like your content, it sounds like you know what you’re talking about, so they subscribe to your blog feed and in turn give you permission to market to them in the future. A powerful way of creating a relationship with someone who was a stranger only minutes before. You’ve ‘earnt’ their attention.

This is the first step.

True inbound companies work on converting these people into customers, taking them on a journey down a sales/marketing funnel (still providing value all the way). This is called lead nurturing. This can consist of email auto-responders; automated emails which keep giving you more information/help/advice, conversion optimisation; different formats for the same pages on a website, tested constantly for the best results and even dynamic content; if I know you’ve downloaded a document before from my site and you’ve given me your name, I might put a personal message for you on my site the next time you return.

The first step to becoming an inbound organisation is to work out your customer personas. You may have two or three for your business depending on audience types/number of products etc. In my business, one of our personas is Bob. Bob is the managing director of a successful business turning over more than a million pounds a year. He has built the business from scratch and is fascinated by marketing. He’s a true salesman and sells his business better than anyone else. Bob is interested in marketing because he recognises that it’s the route to take his business to the next level. He’s an enthusiastic chap who knows what he wants and looks to employ the best people for the job. He doesn’t try and drive people down on price because he appreciates quality. He calls his suppliers partners.

Now when we create marketing material we think of Bob. Would this blog article be of interest to him, would this letter we’re sending out get through his PA? Is this whitepaper going to be something he prints out and takes home to read at night? Your focus on marketing becomes more defined and less time is wasted trying to appeal to all.

As clichéd as it might sound, sharing is caring in this world. Create remarkable content that people want to talk about and tell their friends to check out. This is the way of an inbound organisation, is it the way of your organisation?

If you’re practising Inbound marketing I’d love to hear your stories in the comments. How is it working for you?

p.s. Hat-tip to Hubspot who are the masters of this world and coined the term back in 05/06. Love your work guys.

The Icarus Deception and Seth Godin

The Icarus Deception and Seth Godin

This week, Seth Godin made a rare appearance in the UK and I was lucky enough to bag myself a ticket. I’ve been a huge fan of Seth’s since reading his book ‘Purple Cow’ 4 or 5 years ago and applying many of the principles within it to my own business. Since then I’ve read a number of his books including Lynchpin and most recently, The Icarus Deception, the book this event was based on.

Seth has inspired me for a number of years so I was keen to see him live. I wasn’t disappointed.

The Icarus Deception deals with the fact that we are living in a revolution and that most people are struggling to see it. We are moving from an Industrial Economy (think big brands, big spends, loud marketing noise) where everything revolves around greater efficiency, cheaper products and where people are pushed to be average, to what Seth terms the Connection Economy where the connections you make and the opportunities you take to create ‘Art’ will be the most important element to your success in the future. The problem is, not enough people create art.

So what is art? Art is something new. Art is being different. Art is something you made before others. Art is something you probably tried to create time and time again, not being afraid to fail along the way. Are you making art?

A particular theme that interested me is that as we grow up we’re taught not to make art. Schools are there to teach us to stand in straight lines, to conform, not to speak up but to go through the system – junior school, high school, university, job. When are we told its ok to make a ruckus? I certainly can’t remember being given that instruction. The title of the book, the Icarus Deception refers to the Greek myth about Icarus who was taught, while attempting to escape from Crete, not to fly too close to the sun or his wings would burn and he’d fall into the sea. Of lesser mention is the fact he was also taught not to fly to close to the sea or the mist from the water would make his wings too heavy and the same fate would occur. Where are we teaching future generations to fly? Higher than ever or within their comfort zones, where its nice and safe?

A fascinating story using the company Lego was used as means of an example. Allegedly they were suffering grave problems back in the 80’s/90’s, as they stuck to their belief that every product they made should be able to be used for at least two different things. We were told the company was almost bought to its knees until one of its team came up with the idea of selling lego model kits that children (and I’m sure a few adults) could put together themselves. The company was saved and why? Because kids want to follow instructions, to make something perfectly, NOT to make art, NOT to stand up with something new and different and say, “I made this”

So what does it take to make art then? It takes the willingness to fail, over and over again (something I wrote about here). It takes grit and determination. It takes the need to overcome your ‘lizard brain’ and when others say you can’t do it, to carry on. It takes the ability to dance with fear (a favourite phrase of mine) and be ok with ‘this might not work’.

The Icarus Deception is a fascinating book and one that I’m excited about sharing. I for one embrace the connection economy. Am I creating art? Maybe not enough, but I intend to challenge myself with this question on a regular basis.

Are you creating art? If so, please share it with us, after all, an important part of this economy is to be able to stand up and say, ‘I made this’, whatever others say.

[Read more...]

Using Social Media to Enhance Employability

I’m really excited as tomorrow I’m going to be spending the morning with students at Exeter University, talking about Social Media and how it can help their job prospects. We all know its a tough world out there right now and getting a job is a lot harder than when I left the same University, 12 years ago.

I’m excited because when I was there, I didn’t have any of the tools available to these guys to help my search for work. Those who want to give themselves a head start in life really do have a fantastic opportunity to do so.

So here are my top tips to any student looking to use Social Media to enhance their employability potential.

1). Without wanting to start on a negative note, the first place to start is understanding privacy settings and what employers these days use the web for – Googling your name. Have you Googled your name (that’s mine by the way) to see what turns up? Have you checked to see what information people can turn up on you on Facebook without being logged in, or through a profile that is not friends with yours? If not, I suggest you do, because rightly or wrongly prospective employers will be doing so.

2). Right lets get positive now. If I could give one piece of advice to a prospective employee it would be to start blogging. How many CV’s do you think every job you go for is going to attract? How many of them link to a blog which shows off their knowledge, thoughts & personality? Not many I bet you. So here’s your number 1 chance to stand out. With tools like WordPress so easy to use (and free), you can start a blog today, while you’re at Uni and demonstrate to future employers 1000 times more about you, than you can on your CV.

3). Start listening & learning. Use tools like Twitter to start searches for people tweeting in the area you’re looking to get work. Build up a picture of who is about and begin to engage with them. Getting to know a prospective employer before you’ve even applied for a job could just give you the edge you need when it comes to interview time.

4). More Learning. Really?!? Yup ‘fraid so. The workplace is very different to Uni life. Find industry experts and influencers in your field of choice and follow them on sites like Twitter. Learn from them, create your own posts about the things they say on your newly formed blog. Find the thought leaders out there and start to build up real world knowledge of what business is really going to be like.

As an aside, if you’re into Business & Marketing here are a few great people/companies to start with:

Chris Brogan
, Seth Godin
, UnMarketing
Mashable & Econsultancy

5). Make LinkedIn your corporate network. In the business world many of us use LinkedIn as our corporate network. We keep personal stuff to Facebook so that’s not much use to connect with us on. Twitter is more difficult to build close connections on quickly, it takes time. Start to add people you meet at job fairs/events/shows/out networking and build your numbers. Know people in the local business community (family/friends etc)? Add them too. Numbers lead to leverage in LinkedIn and as you take your profile wherever you go in your working life, you should start to see this as one of your most valuable assets.

6). Be Proactive – When I’m looking to recruit, I want someone that stands out. I want someone that makes the effort to go the extra mile. I want someone that doesn’t just send me in a CV and hope for the best. Recruitment is expensive for us company owners. You can not only save us money but show you’re different by finding me on LinkedIn and sending me your details. Ensure to tell me not just about your skill set, but why you want to work for me, what you can bring to my company and why you’re different. You’ll be ahead of 95% of other candidates already and if you’ve done everything else I’ve said above I may not even bother seeing anyone else!

Guys, if I were looking for a job now I’d be really enthused by all the ways I can make myself stand out. The question is….are you?

Now Your Thoughts

  • Have you got any more tips for the stars of the future?

Who are your influencers?

Who are your influencers?

In my last blog post I talked about the influence project. This week I want to focus on finding your influencers.

How do you spread the message about your business? Do you try and do it yourself? Do you employ sales people to go out and do it on your behalf? These are valid tactics but I want to let you into a secret today – it’s far easier and more effective to spread the message about your company if you let others do it for you. Sounds obvious right but how do you do it? Here’s how:

1). Work out who your ‘sneezers’ are. Seth Godin came up with the concept of the sneezer in a book entitled ‘Unleashing The Idea Virus’ (aff link) a few years ago. The idea being that your sneezers will help you push out a message to far more people and far quicker than you could hope to do on your own. A sneezer is the type of person that loves to talk, they love to tell other people about other peoples business. I’m sure if you think hard enough about it you will work out a few of your sneezers right now. More often than not they are the people that attend every networking event and seem to know everyone. Their personalities just lend themselves to ‘sneezing’ :)

2). Give them the tools to pass your message on. If you’re hoping they will pass your message on in real life, the message better be good. You better have a fantastic new product or a purple cow (another great book by Seth, also an aff link). These days we have social media which allows us to push a message on quickly by sharing, retweeting or forwarding on a message – it can literally be at the click of a button.

3). Find these people online. I keep a list of my sneezers on my computer at all times. I started with a list of everyone that’s ever passed my name or my company name onto a contact as a recommendation. That’s the holy grail by the way (someone putting their neck on the line for you). Treat these people very carefully and concentrate on them when you need to get a message out there. Influencers online are usually quite easy to find. They are normally well liked, well followed people. If they run blogs then look for signs like numbers of rss subscribers, number of comments, number of times they get retweeted. If these people push your message on you’re going to get traction. Spend time building relationships with them, engage with them and help them wherever you can.

4). Hang out in places where influencers are. I’m a member of two or three online communities. These cost money but boy are they worth it. The quality of member I’ll meet here will be worth their weight in gold. There are two that I’d recommend joining today, one here in the UK and one in the states.

Entrepreneurs Circle – If you’re a business owner or entrepreneur then join up today. I believe at the time of writing you get two months free so what have you got to lose? This group has both online content, which is worth the joining fee alone and offline meetups where you can network with successful individuals.

Join Entrepreneurs Circle (aff link)

Third Tribe – Chris Brogan et al started Third Tribe with the vision of scaling their knowledge and bringing like minded online marketers together. There is an excellent forum and the podcasts (which you can download to your mp3 player) are second to none. If you want to mix with the best online marketing people in the world then this is the place to be.

Join Third Tribe Marketing (aff link)

I make no bones about the fact that I am an affiliate for both these groups. I never promote things I’m not a fan of or have not benefitted from myself. These two groups have had a profound effect on my business life so I heartly recommend you joining today if you can.

Now Your Thoughts

Do you know who your influencers are? Have you got processes in place to look after them and help them to help you?

Secrets for Super Successful Business Owners – Nigel Botterill

Secrets for Super Successful Business Owners – Nigel Botterill

On Wednesday night I had the privilege of watching Nigel Botterill, UK Entrepreneur and CEO of thebestof Franchise group present to 100 businesses in my hometown of Exeter. The tour of the country is called “18 Secrets that Super Successful Business Owners Know and Do…” – you can follow the conversation about the tour on the hashtag we created with thebestofexeter at #18secrets.

I’ve met Nigel a couple of times now but this time I was lucky enough to get an hour with him before the big event, discussing ideas and thoughts on business. I’ve written before about how important it is to ditch the negative people in your life and surround yourself with positivity and success – When you chat to someone successful like Nigel you can’t help but be lifted and ideas immediately start to flow – I was at the venue at 5ish and didn’t leave until 9:30pm – it felt like about an hour!

Now i’m not going to simply copy and paste Nigel’s points – that wouldn’t be cricket. However, from the 18 secrets, I’m going to share my big 3 takeaways from the night.

1). “Making the jump from ordinary income to big income business means you need to make the jump from ‘doer’ of the business to ‘marketer’ of the business.” How true – if you’re stuck in the business doing the work on a daily basis, how can you be out promoting it and taking it to the next level? I’ve focused on this quite a lot in my own business in the last year and we’ve certainly reaped the rewards. I’ve built a great team around me who are able to deliver the product, while I market the business. A friend of mine (Richard Carpenter) uses the analogy of driving a car being like running a business: You start by driving the car yourself, taking it in whichever direction you want. The key is to move yourself from the front seat to the back seat and be driven around while you simply direct where you want to go. :) Although I’m being a bit sneaky by putting two tips into one, Nigel also pointed out that we should all concentrate on our marketing first thing in the morning (pref before anyone else gets into work) – a great piece of advice in my opinion and something I’m going to try and focus on over the next few months.

2). Your most valuable asset in business is your database! Your database is critical to your success if you’re going to make it big. Build it at every opportunity, get in contact with your customers regularly, send them something, make them an offer, give them a reason for coming over or for you to go and see them. There are loads of studies about how much easier it is to sell to your current client base than a new one yet many of us get caught in the trap of trying to pour more and more in the top of our funnels while not looking after the people who have already shown they trust us and are willing to spend their hard-earned with us! Absurd when you think about it! Your database makes it easy to keep in contact – go back and work out a plan for it today. (*If it’s email marketing then get in touch with my team at Optix because they offer an amazing service there – plug over*) I particularly loved this sentence from the presentation:

“It’s not your customer’s job to remember to do business with you….it’s your job to remind them”

3). Commit to learning. No successful businessperson got to where they are sitting on their backside watching TV. Many of these people are continually learning, all day everyday. They have huge libraries of business books, they are like sponges for information. Are you? Do you go home and put the TV on or do you read a business book and learn something new about your industry, competitors or other successful people? This last year I’ve spent time building my library of books, especially in the areas of business success and sales. Here are a few that I’ve read recently which I’d recommend hugely (affiliate links):

The Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness

Think & Grow Rich

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

What Would Google Do?

Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude: How to Find, Build and Keep a Yes! Attitude for a Lifetime of Success

Little Black Book of Connections: 6.5 Assets for Networking Your Way to Rich Relationships

And thanks to a friend Julian Summerhayes who kindly gave me the following book which I can’t wait to read this week:

The Go-giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea

By the way, here’s the great news for any of you who hate reading (I actually fall into that bracket myself believe it or not) – Check out http://www.audible.co.uk/ – A great site which you can subscribe to and download new audio books/mp3s to your ipod/iphone/mp3 player and catchup with all the great stuff above while on the move :)

So those were the three big take aways from my night at 18secrets – do you agree with these? Do you have some killer tips to share? Let’s discuss…

click me

Presenting – Pleasurable or Painful?

Presenting – Pleasurable or Painful?

As an entrepreneur or business owner you’re going to find yourself in positions where you are presenting – Fact. This could be for any number of reasons including raising finance, selling a service/product or simply marketing your business. At Optix Solutions, a large part of our marketing plan is devoted to giving seminars & talks where we aim to educate and give our audience value while not over selling our services. No one likes to be sold to, it’s important therefore that our presentation skills are good. I never stop learning this subject – there is always room for improvement.

Over the last 10 years I’ve provided countless seminars and presentations for pitches, so today I thought I’d share with you my ten strategies for a successful presentation.

1). Watch Others – I’ve learnt more from watching engaging speakers and noting down things they do, than from reading any written material on the subject. Find motivational speakers and absorb everything they do; how they move, what they say and how they interact with the audience. I strongly suggest looking up conferences that have good keynote speakers – Seth Godin (marketing guru) is as good a start as any. There are lots of videos of him on YouTube.

2). The Fear – You’re afraid right? Yeah, most people are but a bit of fear can go a long way (did I just make that saying up?). Seriously though, some nerves can be a good thing; they heighten your senses and pump adrenaline round your body, allowing you to work at an optimum level for the time you are presenting. Admittedly, if they are completely overwhelming it might be wise to work on them with a professional, especially if you’re going to be presenting a lot. There are loads of tactics for getting over nerves but the one I use is to keep reminding myself that the people I’m presenting to are only human – they got up that morning and pulled their socks on just like I did! It’s amazing how that Board Director or Chairman just suddenly got a lot cuddlier.

3). Prepare – The old faithful – “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” Benjamin Franklin. I would never dream of rocking up to a seminar or presentation unprepared, it’s asking for trouble. Make sure you’ve rehearsed a few times and you know the length of time you’ll take. Obviously this should fit in nicely with the time slot you’ve been given. I also try and second guess some of the questions that could be coming at me if it’s a Q & S format so I’m as ready as I can be for them. Be careful however, not to ‘over prepare’, you don’t want to be reading parrot fashion off slides if you can help it and sometimes if you rehearse too much that’s what can happen. I usually run through a presentation twice before hitting the main event for real.

4). Turn up early – There is nothing more stressful than rocking up to something you’re speaking at late, not to mention how unprofessional it looks. Make sure you are there well in advance of the first attendees and ready to setup. You know it’s not going to be simple to connect your laptop to that projector, so why leave it till the last minute? Turning up early also allows you to work out the room: What the acoustics are like, how the seating is laid out, the lighting and anything else that could put you off or make you uncomfortable in your presentation.

5). Summarise your presentation early on – Telling your audience what you are going to talk about upfront is beneficial as it sets the scene and their expectations. Always begin with what you’re going to cover later and keep it simple as possible. If you’re making a short presentation then try and keep it to only a few points.

6). Aim your presentation at your audience, not yourself –
Although you could be an amazing keynote speaker that people would pay to come and watch, I’m guessing that like me, most of my readers will be using presentations to build their personal or company brands in one way or another. If this is the case then remember one thing – your audience want solutions to their problems and needs – they don’t want to hear you babble on about how amazing you are and how great your services could be for them – aim the material at their needs. Understand your audience before the presentation if possible.

7). Long Wordy Slides? No Way Jose! – Long slides with lots of boring text won’t be remembered. If you’ve prepared well, as I mentioned earlier, then you should be able to talk around the content of a slide. Less, in my opinion, is better. In fact, this last year I’ve watched many more presenters using single slides with just one graphic (we all know that visuals work well – picture/thousand words blah blah blah) and a one or two liner to bring home their points. These are fantastic and certainly a route that I intend to adopt on my quest for better presentation skills in the future.

8). Humour – Try, where possible, to inject humour into your presentation. This will break down the barriers with your audience and engage them more. Once your audience is laughing it will help no end with those nerves I mentioned earlier. People connect with humour, if you’re struggling, then why not get others to look over your work and see if they can see opportunities for the occasional jokey image or funny reference. A caveat here though – be careful with humour and public speaking – the last thing you want to do is offend your audience. Steer clear of taboo subjects for jokes.

9). Connect with your audience – No-one wants to listen to a boring, stiff, monotone presenter. The best speakers I’ve seen work the room – it’s an art I tell you. At the most simple level make sure you connect (eye line) with as many people as possible. Focusing on one individual will alienate the rest of the room. If you want to take that a step further and feel comfortable doing so, then engage with a few people one on one (and by name if poss). If you aim a question at one or two people you’d be amazed what that does to the rest of the audience – they soon start listening, thinking it could be them next! I always try and move about a little in order to inject a bit of life into my talks (I have a habit of pacing) – I also use hand gestures as much as possible to control the room (one very effective one is to put your own hand up when you want others to respond in the same way). If you are going to pace about, then it’s good that you got there early so you can test if your shoes will make a distracting noise on the floor – I kid you not, it’s one of the first things I look for. :)

10). Be unique – You want to be remembered don’t you? You didn’t just get up and spend all that time in front of that frightening audience for nothing did you? Do something unique if possible – give value away where you can (especially if it allows you to follow up after the event). If there’s a call to action for your audience, make sure they know what it is. Thank them for listening.

Although I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert, I’ve learnt a lot about presenting and public speaking in the last 10 years – I’m fascinated by the art of it and intend to continue honing my skills over the rest of my business life. I hope this article will help a few people with their own fears or questions about the subject. Good luck…